The most expensive house of the world is not to be found in Tokyo, neither in Hollywood or New York. The € 1.4 billion costing house is built in Dublin, Ireland. It’s not that big though. It counts only three rooms and you won’t find golden taps in the house, nor a bath. Above all, the occupant had to build it all by himself. Sounds like a bad deal!
In fact the real money is in the bricks, literally. For a moment of time, Artist Frank Buckly was the owner of € 1.4 billion of hard cash. But he shredded the huge pile of banknotes and made insulating bricks out of it from which he built a house. Although a bit overprized, the house looks pretty cool.
The artist lived in the house for a week in an art project intended to stimulate debate about the value of money in post-Celtic tiger island. The money was awarded to Frank for his installation by the national mint under strict terms. I wonder how they are ever going to recoup that.
One could say that there’s no more concrete way for showing the relationship between art and money than auctioning two piles of banknotes and call it art. This is what Australian artist Denis Beaubois did. His piece of art called ‘currency’ is nothing more than two stacks of Australian bills totaling $20,000.
The hammer price for the work was 17,500 AUD ($19,000), significantly below what the artist spent on it. But it wasn’t the buyer winning on this one. The price he paid was 21,350 AUD ($23,000)! With a hefty 22 percent premium charge the only winner in this case was the auction house.
Although all in all the buyer spend more money on the artifact than it comprised, we can’t conclude that calling two staples of banknotes ‘art’ affects the value tremendously. Did this piece of art lose its mystery because its value was too clear? I guess so. Money and art shouldn’t meet directly. It takes the mystery away art is relying on so badly.
Wouldn’t it be great to return to the times of the barter economy? There would be no worries about money, no bubbles and most important: more equality between people. It’s no coincidence that over the past 15 years more and more social exchange systems have popped up. These systems are called LETS: Local Exchange Trading System. LETS have their own complementary currency, like Noppes, an Amsterdam based LETS example. When you deliver a service or product, you earn Noppes. With these Noppes then you buy the products or services you need. It can be a fun and cheap way to get a job done or even a strategy to survive for countries that can’t keep up with the highly competitive world economy.
But holding on to a barter system on your own in a prosperous country like Germany, that must not be easy. The 69 year old Heidemari Schwermer gave up using money 15 years ago. It all started with Schwermer opening a swap shop for the huge amount of Dortmund’s homeless. Soon after she decided not to buy anything without giving something away. Next step was quitting her job. By 1995, the shop had changed her life so much that she was spending almost nothing, as everything she needed seemed to find its way into her life. A year after she sold her apartment and decided to live nomadically, trading things and services for everything she needed. It was supposed to be a 1-year experiment, but she just couldn’t give up her new lifestyle and said to be happier than ever.
Watch the trailer of the documentary about Heidemari Schwermer: Living without money.
If you go to the Burning Man and get hooked to the gift economy there, maybe you want to do an experiment only spending Exchanghibtion Bank notes for 1 year. So far, this means you will be spending your days dancing on festivals and parties. But I’m sure you will find ways to turn your art into food, clothes, shelter and eventually a happy live.
Last week The Royal Dutch Mint has issued the first QR-code coins in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Dutch ‘Muntgebouw’. The codes are printed onto the back of a silver five Euro – and a gold 10 Euro coin. Scanning the code will direct you to a special website in honor of the coin, but what will happen after is something only buyers of the coin will find out.
In times in which tangible money is slowly disappearing, it’s striking to see that the Royal Dutch Mint links a memorial coin to something high-tech as QR-codes. Even the design of the coin, which is of Juan José Sánchez Castaño, shows a contrast between old and new. The QR code coin could bring about a renewed interest in physical money, while since years retailers are heavily promoting a cashless society.
Although probably only collectors will get their hands on the QR-code coin, I still think it’s a good sign. This modern coin tells us that cash money is not dead yet and having coins and bank notes in your wallet can mean a whole lot more these days than possessing shares. And don’t we all spend way easier when we use our plastics instead of cash? Moreover, placing QR-codes on coins could become a nice way of communicating and sharing knowledge. About art for example. Or money. And the value of it.
If you thought you could only lose or spend money, you’ve been thinking wrong. Money is great material to make art with. While bankers and stock exchange establishments were wasting their and your money over these years, artists and sculptors from around the globe have been creating amazing stuff with theirs.
For example there is this artist doing Moneygami, origami made of banknotes from different countries. I can hear you thinking: “this is not that spectacular”. But when I tell you each piece is formed by folding the note in such a way that the resulting miniature emphasizes the face of the leader on the note, it already sounds more impressive I suppose. When I subsequently add the fact that he gives each face a unique hat or garb, representing the culture of the currencies’ country of origin, you have to agree with me this artist is a genius. And so is Justine Smith, a girl making sculptures of banknotes expressing our relationships with, and responses to money, in political, moral, and social settings.
Go to weburbanist to see this and more money-art.
At least, when the government decides to cut costs in arts as is happening now in the Netherlands, these artists have something to sell. It will probably yield more money than they put into it.